The control freak’s guide to delegation

Delegation makes the business world go round – and we all need to learn to play our part. Many of us wouldn’t be in business if our clients didn’t delegate to us, and what goes around comes around – so it’s good to ‘pay it forward’.

As a Virtual Assistant, I spend a lot of time encouraging my clients to let go of some of their routine admin tasks to free them up to get more of their own, more valuable work done. I have had to learn to practise what I preach – and I can admit, it hasn’t been easy.

I’m a bit of a control freak but I have learned to understand what I do well and what I don’t do well, and that trying to do everything in a business leaves you feeling frazzled.

If you can learn to delegate skilfully, your business becomes flexible and buoyant, thanks to the team of accountants, administrators, marketing experts and anyone else you’ve brought in who will support your business and work with you to make it grow.

We all have a lot of reasons not to delegate. Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “No-one knows this task as well as I do, so there is no point handing it on.”
  • “I don’t think their standards are as high as mine.”
  • “I don’t trust anyone else.”
  • “I don’t want to hand the baby over.”
  • “By the time I’ve explained how to do this task, I might as well have done it myself.”


If you really want to grow your business, you have to be prepared to take on extra pairs of hands. It’s a big deal to admit you’re not superwoman who has it all under control – but actually, gathering a good team around you empowers you and others to do more, and do it better.

Take time to choose the right people, and consider testing them out over a trial period.

Good delegation takes a lot of preparation, and then, once you have chosen the right people to delegate to you must be prepared to support them throughout the process.

Nothing causes more stress than delegating work to people who don’t know what they are doing, are feeling put upon or as if they can’t ask questions. You’re still responsible for the work you hand over, so make sure you’re delegating tasks, not stress.

Delegation also depends on having good relationships and mutual respect.

You need to be able to get on with people if you are running a business. However, don’t fall into the trap of taking on people who are just like you – find a mixture of personality types and approaches to getting the job done. That way, the ideas you end up with after a good meeting will be all the more powerful and original.

If you have staff of your own, there will be people on your team who just don’t want to be delegated to, and wouldn’t thank you for adding to their workload. Others are looking for opportunities to be stretched and tested and will happily take on new and challenging tasks. This is where good people management skills come in – take care to suss out what people are capable of and interested in and make the most of their skills.

If you’re a one-woman band, delegating to associates or suppliers is a different matter because they have their own businesses – but if you still look at it as an opportunity to help them with their own personal development and business growth, you’ll reap the benefits in your own business.

And finally, for the die-hard control freaks, a confession:

I still struggle to find people who I think will be up to scratch. But I remind myself every day that my colleagues are human and they will make mistakes. I’ve let go of looking for perfection in others – because when things go wrong, they’re just going to worry about it, or worse, lie. All I ask now is that they put their hands up and say when they’ve messed up – then we can sort it out together.

That comes through developing a good relationship with trust and positive communication among my team.

Maybe it’s true: no-one can do the job as well as you can. However, if you let that stop you, in ten years your business is going to be the same size as it is now.  However, if you surround yourself with fantastic first-rate people your business will be the better for it.


Catherine Lee
Catherine Lee

Catherine Lee is a business blogger and founder of Kaleidoscope Virtual Assistant Services. She has more than 20 years’ experience in office management and Personal Assistant Services, and is now an indispensable right-hand woman to executives working all over the country. Catherine is also on a mission to inspire women to make careers as self-employed Virtual Assistants, and to encourage Virtual Assistants to remember they are giving essential, professional business services and to know their own worth.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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